Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste file amended lawsuit against Cotter Corp over Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

An amended complaint was filed in Denver District Court Friday by attorneys Travis Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango and Jeffrey Parsons with the Western Mining Action Project in Lyons, on behalf of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. The defendants are the state health department and Steve Tarlton in his capacity as manager of the state’s radiation control program, plus Cotter Corp. also is listed as a party.

Because Colorado radiation regulations require a decommissioning funding plan that outlines a cost estimate for closing the mill, Cotter and state officials have been working since 2009 to try to pin down an updated cost estimate. However, the lawsuit alleges the bond remains inadequate despite the fact that Cotter Corp. has agreed to up the bond from $14.7 million to $20.8 million by June of this year to cover cost of decommissioning the entire mill when it closes. The state estimated cleanup will cost about $43.7 million while Cotter estimated it would be $23.2 million. On Dec. 15, the state health officials agreed to leave the bond at $20.8 million despite public comment that urged it should be $53 million. “We would like to see them (Cotter Corp.) post the entire $43.7 million at least. It is a federal program the state is implementing and adding a 25 percent contingency (an additional $10.9 million) is standard,” Parsons said. “Both the bonding amount and the way it is calculated are serious problems because they are the first line of defense for the taxpayers of Colorado…

The suit also alleges that decommission work on the old mill is being done without benefit of any kind of updated decommissioning plan since the last plan was inked in 2005. Parsons said there is no current decommissioning plan, final closure plan or reclamation plan. “That is the huge elephant in the room, they (Cotter) are demolishing old buildings, old tanks and putting them in the tailings impoundments and what is going to happen with the tailings impoundment? Currently, they are pumping back contaminated water to adjust for leaking.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The lawsuit filed in Denver District Court alleges that recent dismantling activity at Cotter’s Cañon City mill is being done without a required plan, presenting a public-health risk as toxic and radioactive waste is dumped into a waste-storage pond. “We have frequent high winds here. I always worry,” said Cañon City resident Sharyn Cunningham, leader of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “We’d like an opportunity to weigh in.”[…]

The lawsuit also contends a plume of toxic groundwater contamination from the mill property — identified in 2008 — is flowing unchecked toward the heart of Cañon City and the Arkansas River…

Cotter president Amory Quinn said the lawsuit “doesn’t have anything to do with us” and confirmed that Cotter is dismantling old structures. He said Cotter hopes to move forward with plans to re-engineer and reopen the mill. The health department’s recent approval of a permit for another company to build a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado should have no effect on Cotter’s plans, Quinn said. “We have done millions of dollars’ worth of remedial work in the past few years, and we are going to continue until it is complete,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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